Reviewer:Robert B. Livingston
June 5, 2005 Subject:
Synopsis of Speech
On July 16, 2004, San Francisco City Supervisor Board President Matt Gonzalez opens his speech expressing his surprise at seeing the large turn-out of people. The location of the speech is in the auditorium of Mission High School located in the historic, largely Hispanic-populated Mission neighborhood of San Francisco. (About 1,000 people have arrived on extremely short notice.)
Matt Gonzalez is widely admired in the city and had just narrowly lost an election for Mayor in 2003. Gonzalez was running as a Green Party Candidate, and powerful Democratic Party leaders and their wealthy sponsors had spared no expense or scruples to derail a victory of someone outside of their party. It was a race where he was outspent by his opponent 10 - 1; subjected to relentless unsubstantiated imputations of his character in the local newspapers; and "out-gunned" by having had "celebrity" politicians like Al Gore and Bill Clinton flown in to publicly endorse his opponent (who they barely knew). Intellectual, and keenly intelligent, Gonzalez had forever maintained his customary demeanor of cool equanimity throughout what will likely be viewed in the future as a historically significant race.
Gonzalez states that the two-party system has failed the American people, and he gives examples: a widening disparity between rich and poor, two million people in jails, and tragically low voter turnouts.
He explains how when people like Ralph Nader and Peter Camejo present different ideas for solving the country's problems they are met with incredible resistance and the command to not run for office.
He relates to the audience incidents of Democratic resistance and subterfuge against Nader, most recently in Oregon-- and how these events are misrepresented in the media.
Gonzalez tells the audience that he wishes the Democratic Party would put as much energy into election reform as they do into keeping Nader off the ballot.
Gonzalez confesses that he was naive at one time: how he was once convinced that the Democrats really wanted a better society, but failed to achieve their objectives only because the Republicans stood in their way.
Gonzalez goes on to explain in an informal, extemporaneous manner how Democrats became complacent in a two-party system because they became satisfied rotating power with Republicans. He goes on to explain how the Democrats' complacency is increasingly upset by third party inroads in the political process. Rather than accomodate new voices with election reform, he says, the Democrats react by pretending they don't exist, or by muffling them.
Invoking the name of Ross Perot, Gonzalez points out how third parties both worked for and against the Democrats in past elections. He explains that Democrats should have made, and should make election reform a priority to reduce the uncertainty and instability of the election process.
Presidential Election reform is easy to achieve, Gonzalez says, and he explains four different ways this can be done:
1. The Constitution can be amended to eliminate the Electoral College.
2. The Electoral College could be retained, but changes could be made in each state about how Electoral College votes are awarded-- for example, by having state legislatures award Electoral College votes based on the plurality outcomes of popular elections.
3. Instant run-off voting could be instituted, to insure clear majorities.
4. New elections could be held after close races lacking a clear majority.
Gonzalez accuses the Democrats of having wasted three-and-a-half years doing nothing to achieve election reform while continuing to blame Nader for taking votes from them in the 2000 presidential election. He says that because of this, he refuses to give Democrats the authority to tell him how to vote.
Gonzalez tells the audience that he planned his speech to be short, and that he had just arrived from a house party. He tells the audience that Ralph Nader will soon arrive after signing copies of his new book "The Good Fight" at a bookstore (not mentioned in the speech, but it was at A Clean Well-Lighted Place For Books, Van Ness Avenue-- a good locally owned bookstore that actually has Nader's book, and not a "Great Wall of China" display of Clinton's recent autobiography as some franchises not worth mentioning do). He says that Peter Camejo will also arrive shortly.
Gonzalez welcomes the audience for being present and acknowledges that some are there because they are curious. He tells them that if they keep an open mind during the following speeches they will hear and learn many interesting things that they may not have known.
He concludes with an example of this, explaining how pharmaceutical companies make it difficult for people to get medicines even though tax payers have subsidized their research: "Why can't Nancy Pelosi, why can't Diane Feinstein, why can't these folks stand up and say, 'Gee. You know what? What if these corporations had to pay back the tax payers for research and development?' What if these corporations... return to us our investment? They believe in capitalism? What's wrong with a return on an investment? What's wrong with the people to get that?"